Sight Vocabulary: Everything You Need to Know

These are words students see in a material and can identify very easily. Sight vocabulary or sight words can be divided into two main categories – high-frequency words (like and, he, go, etc.) and non-phonetic words (such as once, the, talk, etc.). Students are able to identify sight vocabulary within a few seconds. Since these words typically reappear on almost any page of text, students are expected to recognize them easily and instantly without sounding them out. 

When students can identify sight words at a glance, they become confident readers with greater speed, comprehension, fluency, and expression. Sight vocabulary also helps students read books independently by following sight word instructions, thus letting them enjoy the process. Reading independently also boosts their feeling of accomplishment that contributes to improved self-esteem. Once they acquire a solid knowledge of sight words, students can focus on understanding the remaining 25% to 50% of words that aren’t covered by the lists of sight words. This helps improve their vocabulary and lays a strong foundation for further learning.

Though there are different sight vocabulary lists, the Dolch List is the most widely used. It contains almost 50% to 75% of all words used in children’s magazines, books, and newspapers. This list is divided into different segments, such as the pre-primer list (a, and, can, me, my, one, etc.), primer list (all, am, are, be, now, out, please, etc.), first-grade list (after, again, any, let, live, of, etc.), second-grade list (always, buy, call, first, tell, their, etc.), and third-grade list (about, bring, carry, cut, laugh, etc).

Sight vocabulary plays a crucial role in the phonics learning of kindergarten and first-grade students. When students can recall sight words at a glance, they can exercise control over the building blocks of language. However, not all sight words are easy to learn. This is especially true for tricky or non-phonetic words, such as walk, talk, once, come, etc., which don’t follow the usual phonetic spelling patterns. Since it’s difficult to sound out non-phonetic words, teachers should focus on repetition and use word games to help students identify them. 

It’s in kindergarten when students start learning sight words. The process continues through first grade. Since different students learn in varied ways and at different speeds, there’s no set target about how many sight words they should learn. Still, an aim to teach them 20 and 100 sight words by the end of kindergarten and first grade, respectively, would be a prudent one.

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